Authentic: Not false or imitation. Real. True to one's own personality, spirit, or character: Sincere, with no pretensions
I really don't want to take your time (or mine) and write about all the ways we are not living authentically. In truth, when I scroll through Facebook and Instagram, I love the perfectly choreographed pictures that reflect a beautiful sense of your flawless reality...clean homes, manicured lawns, refinished projects, children who love their siblings, and husbands who bring your roses. I love the jokes, the funny stories, and the witty posts about how your family makes you laugh, cry, smile or scream all within a 10-minute time frame.
These pictures and posts make me laugh and smile. I truly love the good. I love the blessings. I love the joy.
And then there is the other side...
I also weep when I read of a tragedy, illness, heartache, divorce, and brokenness. There is a world out there, right next door, in our schools, in our rows at church, or at our grocery stores that need the hope of Jesus, because life can be hard...very, very hard.
For a long time, I skimmed over those heartbreaking status updates, blog posts, and painful memories. I was selfishly looking for Facebook to brighten my day and the Debbie Downers were ruining my selected entertainment.
In a Bible study a few years ago, I was challenged to start really seeing what was happening around me and that God had a divine purpose in allowing me to see what I was seeing. After some wrestling with Jesus, I made a commitment to look and see, to read and to be uncomfortable, and to be informed. Not everything is pleasant. There is so much pain, so much heartache...and for many, seasons of loss can stretch on for years.
Years ago, I read and followed Jennifer McKinney at MckMama. She was an amazing photographer and had the most adorable children...ever. Shortly after I started following her blog, she learned that the baby she was carrying, Stellan, had a heart defect. The McKinney's were given the devastating news that Stellan most likely would not survive after delivery.
MckMama drew me into her family and I hung on every written word. If I was at the computer crying, Philip knew I was reading about Stellan. I prayed for him every day. I read her story and bawled like a baby. She wrote about her journey, her dreams, her babies...she was raw. Really and truly, she was the epitome of authentic. Sometimes she would write things and I would think, "There isn't any way I would ever have written that!" Well, she went there, said it, and got up the next day and wrote again. I read every word of it.
I just found this video of Stellan's miracle on Vimeo. Yes, I totally cried again...6 years later. I am such a weeper.
Stellan was born and survived the delivery. When he was a little older, his condition almost took his life. Finally, he was seen in Boston and had a life-saving surgery. Truly, her story changed me. Her blog allowed me a window into her family and let me experience the miraculous hand of God at work in her little boy's life. I am not sure if it was because I had a baby boy around the same time or if it was the way she detailed her raw feelings, either way...for over a year, I knew exactly what was happening in the McKinney family. (Some would call me a stalker! I completely agree.)
I would love to say that Stellan got healed and they lived happily ever after...with a successful blog, a happy marriage, and some amazing children.
Unfortunately, that isn't what happened.
They began to have financial and marriage problems. MckMama haters came out of the woodwork. There were websites dedicated to hating her. They began writing things in her comment section, really mean things. I remember once, she made rainbow pancakes for her kids and there was an outcry over her using filters to accentual the colors of the pancakes. Who has time to do this? Even a better question, "Who cares?" I certainly didn't. I am just impressed that anyone would go through the trouble of making different colored pancakes for their kids...with natural products. I mean, who has beet juice? I would be like...move over Red Dye #40. Eventually, she closed down her blog because she had to put the pieces of her life back in order and she tucked her beautiful little family out of the spotlight. Occasionally I see glimpses of her on Instagram with her husband and her 5 healthy children. Her journey, their faith, their trial...impacted me.
Being authentic truly cost her. I am so thankful she let me in on her journey. I don't even care if you didn't like her blog. Her blog gave me something amazing. I felt like she was my friend and when she feared Stellan's loss, I grieved with her. When Stellan's tale ended with his complete healing, so did her unconditional support. Her audience went from sincere loyalty to passionate hate. They hated her truth, the truth that Jesus healed her son.
So we loved her in crisis, but couldn't deal with her through the miraculous? Have you ever been there? I know I have. Ever prayed and believed for something so hard and someone else got your miracle? There have been times I was desperate and Jesus messed up and blessed my friend instead. I think He allows this in order to test our hearts, our reactions, and our words. We are really good at rallying around devastation...for a time, but when it goes on for years are we willing to stay the course?
Authenticity is more than a buzz word, it is a lifestyle and it will shake your world.
Please don't tell me you want more authenticity...unless you are really ready to hear the truth of the whole story. Don't get sucked into the drama, offer your support, and then withdraw when they haven't arrived at your definition of "moving on" in your time frame.
I have a wonderful friend who had two enormous losses back to back in her young life, the kind of losses that change how one looks at the world. She came to our small group a year later and apologized as she talked through her grief. Let me be clear...there are things we move through because God gives us the courage and the strength to overcome, but our life, our relationships, and our world view will forever be changed. "Overcoming" is not the same thing as "getting over." True authentic relationships make room for the process of overcoming. This means you can still talk about things 20 years later and it will still matter to me because it still matters to Jesus. Every day...it matters to him. The beauty of letting other people into our stories is that it shines the hope of Jesus. When He shows up. When He heals us. When He comforts us. The ones looking in get to experience the miraculous and the making of a true love story that comes on the other side of dark trials.
Authenticity is not some feel good thing that gives us warm fuzzies all over so we can leap through a field of tulips at the end of the day. Authenticity is raw. If we let it, it will change us. It will cost us.
When we found out a little girl in our family wasn't safe, someone told me she wasn't our problem. I had no words. No, she wasn't my problem, she never was my problem. Jennifer was and always has been in the Lord's hands, but he did equip our family to have eyes to see her situation and to prepare a home for her. If we had closed our eyes, we would have missed something amazing and good and hard. It has changed us. It has cost us. We are better for it.
Authentic living means that we allow things around us to impact our hearts and we give God the room to reveal just how big He really is. The first step to living this way is to allow yourself and the people around you to truly feel. This can make us uncomfortable in a culture where "How are you?" and "Fine." are common interactions among most of us. Although we are not "fine." there is this expectation to present ourselves as well, unbroken, and pain-free. In truth, we cried ourselves to sleep last night, our relationships are a wreck, and we took ibuprofen to kill a headache we have been pushing through for days.
Priscilla Shire writes this The Resolution for Women.
"So He's decided to show you—to let you see the chaos, the devastation, the damage, the ruin, the waste, the loss—preparing you to envision how stunning His work can be, even through the likes of ordinary people like you and me.
So don't stop looking. Don't turn your eyes away. What you're seeing, He has orchestrated for you to see. In His sovereign plan for your life, His is calling you, wooing you, compelling you to get involved."
Authenticity is ugly, beautiful, inspiring, and painful all at the same time. It is our human nature to skim over the ugly and the painful because it hurts. In order to experience God in amazing authentic ways, we have to work through the horrible in order to appreciate the beauty of his healing and restoration.
When it comes to a passion for true authenticity, just remember...
Authenticity will change you.
Authenticity will cost you something.
And your life, your relationships, and your ministry will be better for it.
Living Completely Undone
I am a girl passionately in love with Jesus, my husband, and my children. I am forever learning how to live a life completely undone for my God. This blog is about my journey and a few funny stories in between.